By Pat Evans –
GRAND RAPIDS - Coming off their win-streak ending loss in Milwaukee on Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Griffins road a hat trick from Tomas Jurco to beat the Rockford IceHogs 5-3 Friday night at Van Andel Arena.
The game saw goals from the Griffins’ Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen and Jeff Hoggan and Rockford’s Jeremy Morin, Alex Broadhurst and Joakim Nordstrom.
Jurco’s hat trick was well-deserved, Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill said.
“It means he got the game puck,” Blashill said. “I liked his jump, effort and his attention to detail. When he plays like that, he’ll get lots of chances to score. Tonight he scored.”
Grand Rapids was quick to start the scoring, lighting the lamp 2:22 into the game when Jurco tapped the puck as he was sliding past the goal. The puck slipped through Rockford goalie Kent Simpson’s legs.
Roughly seven minutes later, Rockford found its way onto the scoreboard when Morin slapped a rebound toward Griffins goalie Petr Mrazek. The puck bounced past Mrazek in similar fashion to Jurco’s goal.
Mrazek looked upset that he couldn’t corral the first shot.
At 12:43, the Icehogs went down two men with too-many-men and delay-of-game penalties. Although the Griffins were able to fire off a few shots, Simpson made quality saves to keep the score knotted.
The second period stayed fairly calm, until Pulkkinen put the Griffins back on top with 3:14 left in the period with a power play goal.
“It was a power play and I like to shoot the puck,” Pulkkinen said. “If you shoot 10 times, one has to go in.”
The Griffins battled off a few shorthanded stints of their own, before Theo Peckham took a penalty and gave the Griffins a man-advantage.
Pulkkinen received a pass from defenseman Nathan Paetsch, and put a beautiful shot from the top of the left circle above Simpson’s shoulder.
With a little more than 12 minutes left in the third, the Griffins went up another goal when Hoggan backhanded a rebound above Simpson’s left shoulder as he was skating past the net.
A few minutes later on a power play, Nyquist slapped a pass back to Jurco on the opposite side of the net who then tapped it in, giving the Griffins a 4-1 lead.
Just 18 seconds later the IceHogs took the puck down and Broadhurst slammed the puck past Mrazek’s right side.
With 4:01 remaining, Jurco capped off his hat trick when he shot a puck from behind the right side of the net and deflected off the back of SImpson and into the net.
“I haven’t played great great lately … you never know before the game,” Jurco said. “The first one was a great feeling. The last goal was a lucky bounce and made me laugh a little.”
The Griffins let their guard down and allowed the IceHogs to score again 18 seconds later, as Nordstrom shot the puck past Mrazek.
“I don’t like giving up those goals,” Blashill said. “They’re a team that pushes hard. We gotta get better at this; we gotta make sure we don’t give the other team any life.”
Mrazek made 30 saves on 33 shots.
Notes: Jordin Tootoo made his Grand Rapids Griffins debut, and was -1 with one shot on goal. Tootoo was placed on waivers by the Red Wings earlier this week, and was assigned to Grand Rapids after no other NHL team claimed him.